Simmons First National (SFNC) in Pine Bluff, Ark., has agreed to buy Liberty Bancshares in Springfield, Mo.

The $4.4 billion-asset Simmons First said in a press release Wednesday that it will pay about $207 million for the $1.1 billion-asset Liberty. Simmons First said it expects to complete the acquisition in the fourth quarter.

"Liberty's expertise in small business lending will enhance our commercial offerings throughout our geographies and will further establish Simmons as a premier community banking organization," George Makris Jr., Simmons First's chairman and chief executive, said in the release.

Simmons First will pick up 23 branches, $811 million in loans and $885 million in deposits. The company said it expects the transaction to be immediately accretive to diluted core earnings per common share.

Sterne, Agee & Leach and Quattlebaum, Grooms, Tull & Burrow advised Simmons First. Keefe, Bruyette & Woods and Stinson Leonard Street LLP advised Liberty.

Simmons has been an aggressive acquirer in recent months, agreeing earlier this year to buy Community First Bancshares in Tennessee for $243 million and Delta Trust in Arkansas for $66 million. It also bought Metropolitan National Bank through a bankruptcy process last year.

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